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Had a great hangout with Rebecca today! I loved hearing more about Rebecca’s project. I’m super happy about it — I love the literal gift-giving impetus of her work — and I think that the type of site-specific work she’s creating is just what a place like SFO needs! I recounted how when I left San Francisco (in 1990) for Houston, I was more-than-happy to leave because the city felt so calcified, so conservative, so disappointing. Houston, it turns out, was the exact opposite at the time, an anything-goes place. I like that Rebecca’s work is recreating an “anything-can-happen” in that city, especially in an unlikely place like the Noe Courts Park.

Rebecca meditated on the reason site-specific work was important to her, and one of the reasons is that in SFO (and most major cities) traditional theater (proscenium, thrust, round, platform) is widely available, almost glutting the place, and is attended by the mainstream. The more experimental theater is seen mostly by other theater artists, which, as she said, is 

kind of a sad state of affairs. Site-specific work is a way to bring experimental theater into the ordinary, mainstream world. We both agreed that in doing so, she is also emphasizing (directly or indirectly) how the public place is always a performative place.

In elaborating on her gift-giving objectives, she mused that “someone’s getting something rather than spending something,” which resonated with me. We are all so TAXED by the 21st Century (we have “lain waste our powers,” as Wordsworth might say, “little we see in nature that is ours.”) Relatedly, I love that Rebecca’s pieces take place outside in nature — constructed nature, but nature nonetheless. SFO is situated in one of the most beautiful natural environments in our country. And nature is so restorative, healing. Being in community is also healing, and with many of us deeply stuck indoors, we are are at risk of giving up or forgoing the necessary demands of improvising with others in ordinary experiences (what community is — a group that improvises in a place) and therefore forgoing possibilities of spontaneous healing/restoration.

 

Regarding my project, Rebecca had some great ideas/connections. She pointed me to John Guare’s play “A Free Man of Color,” which she saw when it had a limited run in NYC from November 2010 to January 2011. The detail that sold me is that there’s a great section about annexation in that play. I downloaded the play and am already reading it. (Re: my love of synchronicity — John Guare’s name and visage has been cropping up in my field for months now, so thanks, RL for introducing me formally, finally!) In addition to pointing me to Guare’s play, Rebecca directed me to one of our fellow PBRA Moocers, Megan Cohen, who’s working on a multi-site-specific piece called Totally Epic Odyssey (which, of course, resonates with me). Cohen is working toward creating a 12-hour monologue that she’ll live-stream, and currently she is presenting pieces of her monologues in people’s houses and in “privately owned public spaces” (a zoning thing). One of the ideas she is exploring through this multi-site-specific work is hospitality (Xenia, in the Greek parlance of the time). That one detail opened up a huge door for me — I’m not working with the Greek value of Xenia, but I am exploring the Greek value of Kleos — or familial reputation (honor, glory), normally passed on through the patriarchal line. Only, I’m interested in the matriarchal line of my family and, specifically, in my great-great-great-great grandmother, Ysidora Pico Forster’s experience. 

3 Comments

  1. Wonderful insights Christa. You know it’s interesting that Rebecca is a PerformING Artist, and Katrina is a PerformANCE Artist, yet they’ve each created “.Re/cipes” for public engagement & interaction. Such an inspired, compelling space they’re exploring!

  2. I agree; these types of performance/performing spaces — a la Rebecca’s and Katrina’s work — embody the idea I read in on of your posts (where did you write about this again?) that we are all participants, as opposed to split into a dichotomy of artist v. audience.

  3. http://blog.virtualpublicart.com/post/63703027883/no-audience

    The idea of participation seems so much more vital to me than “just sitting there.” Then again, what do audiences want? I was born in 1969 so I pretty much missed all that counter-culture participatory theatre stuff… but my sense is that it was briefly big, and then audiences sort of said that they didn’t pay their money to go be on stage, they paid to sit anonymously in the dark and peer through the 4th wall at OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES! (should actually research this!)

    Then again, then again, that was before The Internet and Podcasts and Vlogs and Blogs and Wikis and Improv Everywhere and Flashmobs, not to mention Extreme Sports, Graffiti Writing, Yarn Bombing and Parkour. So if the house lights come up and you step off the stage and try to drag me from my seat onto the stage, maybe I’m reluctant. But if it’s The MP3 Experiment and we show up at the park with our red t-shirts and MP3 players, maybe we’re ready!

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